Art can be a fickle bitch from time to time. Either you get the artist’s intention or not. But even if the latter one is the case it still had a certain impact on you, even if it was just pure and honest incomprehension. Either you get it or you’re screwed or maybe just lack of the demanded intellectuality. The result is a quite comfortable position for the artist but sill he’s not completely resistant towards criticism. Even for a project like THE KNIFE who always walked the difficult line between pop and art ever since siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer started producing music together 15 years ago. Somewhere after their praised 2006 record Silent Shout the duo decided to give the elements ‘art’ and ‘ambition’ a bigger percentage in the being of their band which is quite respectable.
Still, the result remains questionable. Last year’s comeback LP Shaking The Habitual created quite a hype prior to its release but left fans and critics a bit helpless in its consequent denial of familiar song structures. Same goes for last year’s live show which became a pumped-up aerobics performance of the new songs, lacking of a certain concert feeling and the band’s previous hits. Some might still doubt if the Dreijer siblings were even present during some of these performances. THE KNIFE perfected the dismantling of their audience’s expectations in the most perfect way. Their current Shaken-Up shows, the band’s final actions under the moniker THE KNIFE, aim for conciliation under the fans. Old hits found their way into the set and the whole show was less cryptic than in 2013 and more like a colourful celebration of dance, pop and liberty. A well-balanced confession by the Swedes.
Still, an aerobic dancer worked as some sort of ‘support act’ prior to the main show to get Berlin’s crowd going. Not the worst idea; a little workout never hurt anybody. THE KNIFEs audience is as colourful as their show. A lot of foreigners found their way into the Arena in Berlin, a broad range of the city’s hipsters and even bigger parts of the queer community which celebrated their Swedish saviours due to their consequent commitment to gender equality. If you’re desperately looking for a message within these final shows it might be this: ‘Dance, feel free, feel comfortable in your body, no matter what size or gender you got. In fact: screw the whole concept of gender.’ THE KNIFE are so over all restrictions and fed up with the familiar expectations of what a pop record and a live concert should look like that it is almost too consequent for them to not move forward and continue as a band.
Around 10 to 15 performers populate the colourful stage, constantly switching between well-choreographed dancing routines, singing along and using a handful of instruments, mostly percussive ones. The robes are somewhere between sci-fi and 80s aerobics and of course there are laser beams involved. Wrap Your Arms Around Me and Raging Lung open the performance like a technoid tribal ceremony. Everything’s pumping, there’s a lot going on. Actually spotting the Dreijer siblings seems impossible and at least the first 20 minutes you really wonder if they are even part of the show or just stayed at home. But they are and Karin’s voice is still the distinctive centre of their musical microcosm. It buzzes around the room as the dancers are constantly pushing themselves.
The Shaken-Up versions of some old classics like We Share Our Mother’s Health or Pass This On are positively received by the audience although they are not as powerful as the originals. The show circles around itself; one of the dancers intonates the poem Collective Body Possum by Jesse Arndt and claims: ‘I want a body that’s not afraid to fuck, and to be fucked.’ The audience agrees even when she demands: ‘I want no bathrooms.’ Eeeks. But what THE KNIFE really want is to have a good time. Shannon Funchess, usually part of wave duo LIGHT ASYLUM, plays an important role in that undertaking. The charismatic black woman with the powerful voice dominates the final parts of the show with her track Stay Out Here and the band’s evergreen Silent Shout. Even Karin Dreijer Andersson leaves her hideout and duets with Funchess as the show becomes one big rave towards its end. The performers leave after a bit more than an hour, two of them continue to keep the audience going in form of a DJ-set. Another consequent move.
We’re left with questions and expectations. In one of the band’s last interviews Dreijer Andersson stated that THE KNIFE are ‘anything and nothing’ which sums up the band’s final show concept pretty well. Over the past years the group extended its own self-image to a maximum. At the end of their career the band became a basin for ideas, messages and creative minds who’d like to combine the irresistible catchiness of pop with a deeper meaning. Although many parts of the audience were just enjoying a good techno party the radical idea of THE KNIFE was partly visible through its shallow surface. But maybe in these difficult times such ideas need a different medium than just a long going synthpop duo who clearly had its zenith. It kind of makes you hungry for the future endeavours of these folks. Ending it this way is the highest state of consequence. Okay, we got it. They’ll be missed.